Käthe Kollwitz’s artwork focuses on her ever-changing belief about death. Infant mortality, death as result of war, and her own relation to death are a few ways in which she associates death in her work. She showed death as a worthy sacrifice, as a villain taking life to soon, and finally as a friend coming to escort her to the thereafter. She had an almost obsessive relationship with death. When death was not physically personified in her work it was an unseen enemy portrayed in her figures faces and body expressions. Her view on society and her duty as a mother was entangle with death. Though the topic is morbid her artwork is something to be admired and praised. As the old saying goes beauty is in the eye of the beholder and though death is shown in Kollwitz’s artwork it is somehow beautifully sad.
Before talking about her artwork it is best to know where Kollwitz’s fascination with death originated. The infant mortality rate was much higher back then so it was not uncommon for women to give birth to five or six kids and only three of them live past the age of three. Kollwitz’s mother was no exception. Mrs. Schmidt gave birth to five children and only three survived. Kollwitz distinctly remembers her younger brother, Benjamin’s, death and its impact on her mother. The death of her baby brother caused a distance between her and her mother. Death was always walking beside her in her thoughts from then on.
Throughout all of her artwork there is sprinkled a mother, child, and death. Estella Lauter and Kominque Rozenberge discuss in their work The Transformation of the Mother in the Work of Kathe Kollwitz the different facial and body expression the mothers in Kollwitz work portray. This was increasingly interesting because it also reflected how those mothers throughout her work reacted to death. As the discussion goes chronologically through her artwork how the mother, child, and death scenario changes shows the changing of Kollwitz’s mentality and outlook on society.
Starting at the beginning it is obvious that how Kollwitz views death deepens in meaning and even changes. In the late 1800s and early 1900’s she draws in favor of social change through a revolution. This can be seen in both her series The Weavers and Peasant Wars. With the population and industrial boom in Germany during this time the poverty rate was increasingly high. Kollwitz saw the poverty and made their struggles a focal point in her earlier work. Along with a struggling lower class comes death: death due to starvation, death due to mistreatment, and the death of the wealthy at the hands of the revolutionist. Death showed it’s self in these works in the form of dead bodies as well as an unseen presence that is generally felt in the etchings. An example of this unseen presence of death is shown in her work The Carmagnole (Dance Around the Guillotine). Death shows its face through the form of the guillotine and the actions of the peasants. They want a revolution; they...